# Wednesday, January 30, 2008

After watching Facebook's popularity jump with the release of its applications and API, MySpace is releasing its own API for developers on February 5th. Developers can sign up here.The platform will be interoperable with Google’s OpenSocial platform, so applications written for OpenSocial will work on MySpace.

This is a smart move for MySpace. The next version of the Web, Web 2.5, is all about making your site/network as a platform. Think of MySpace and Facebook as MSDOS back in the day. Now that data interoperability is starting to happen (Microsoft is the latest to join the Data Portability Group), sites will compete on the quality of their APIs and ability to attract developers to their platform, not how many users data they keep locked up.

I can see in the future more data/infrastructure sites providing backend social networking services (profile and login via OpenID, storage, social networking software, etc)via web services for front-end sites that focus on the user experience, API and attracting developers. One day Facebook and MySpace may even outsource their storage, profile, and social networking pieces and focus on their API.

posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 12:33:58 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, January 24, 2008

Here is my letter to the State of New York on document formats and interoperability, my home state now wants to ban saving documents in any format but ODF:

Darlene Van Sickle
Principal Attorney
New York State Office for Technology
State Capitol, ESP - PO Box 2062
Albany, NY 12220-0062

Email: erecords-study AT oft.state.ny.us

Dear Ms. Van Sickle:

I am writing in response to the Request for Public Comments regarding document formats and interoperability. I am a technology professional who has spent many years envisioning, implementing and maintaining solutions for companies both large and small. Given the enormous diversity of needs most companies and governments have internally, I am concerned that your office is heading down a path of mandating a solution that will limit choice and increase costs for our State agencies.

Companies I have worked with over the years, such as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and the National Football League, often have the same concerns that the State does: accessibility to documents, interoperability, and longevity. But each company and each department may have different needs. So solutions are created with goals in mind, rather than to a specific, locked-in solution. Your study suggests the opposite approach, forcing every department and office to build strategies around a locked-in, one-size-fits-all technology.

If your agency decided to prevent any text document from being stored under existing methods - requiring even the simplest text note to be stored in a new, untested format called ODF- it would force the state to undertake a massive conversion of all existing documents for data retention and indexing. Even if the tools to do this significant transition were free, the testing, rollout, and support costs would be enormous.

Finally, locking every state agency and department into today's technology could be the equivalent of mandating 8 track tapes in the era of CDs. While XML is hot technology right now, it's important to note that just a few years ago, the HTML standard used for the web was a wild new idea. Archie, FTP and Gopher were to tools of the day - now they are almost unheard of. If we have learned one thing in the past decade, it's that technology changes quickly.

I would urge the State to allow Agencies and departments to choose the format and technology that best serves their needs, rather than a locked in solution that may fit no one's.

Sincerely,

Stephen Forte

Senior Partner, Accord Advisory Group

www.accordadvisory.com


 

posted on Thursday, January 24, 2008 6:01:28 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I am traveling this week in Vilnius, Lithuania. I am visiting my friends at DocLogix, a .NET based document management software development firm in Vilnius, helping them scope out their next version.

While here I realize how small the world has become. Lithuania is a country not many people have heard of, which is too bad since its culture and history goes back over 1,000 years. There are city walls that date back to the 1400s and most castles and churches date back to the 1500s and were rebuilt in the 1700s.

 IMG_0680 - Copy

What I find amazing is that just 17 years ago Lithuania was not an independent country, it was part of the Soviet Union. There are signs of it in some places (like this workers unite photo below), but now Lithuania is a full member of the EU and the NATO alliance. DocLogix's office is in a technology park, once a tank storage and troops barracks for the Soviet Russian Army.

IMG_0678 - Copy

Besides blogging and emailing (Eastern Europe is very wired, there is free wifi everywhere in Vilnius) I have been keeping in touch with Skype and uploading my photos on flickr. Just 5 years ago it was not this easy to be connected to the rest of the world when traveling. The world has changed and getting smaller.

UPDATE:

I ate Pig's Ear. I found it surprisingly good (like smoked bacon) and had 3 ears, but the locals eat it all up.

IMG_0704 - Copy

posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 1:35:46 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Sunday, January 20, 2008

Microsoft will be hosting a Silverlight 1.0 Firestarter event in New York City this month on Saturday, January 26th!   If you missed the Firestarter event Microsoft hosted in the Philly area last month, this is your chance to make up for it.  This day long event is free to anyone who wants to learn about designing and developing with Microsoft Silverlight 1.0.

clip_image002[6]Microsoft Silverlight 1.0 is a cross platform browser plug-in that enables for easy development of media rich web sites.  For more information, visit http://silverlight.net.

Mark your calendars now for January 26th.   Registration is now open!

REGISTER HERE

Here is the agenda:

8:30 am – 9:00 am - Breakfast

9:00 am - 10:45 am - Keynote

10:45 am – 11:45 am - Microsoft Expression Design Tools

11:45 am  – 12:45 pm - XAML Essentials for Silverlight

12:45 pm – 1:30 pm - Lunch

1:30 pm  – 2:30 pm - Developer Tools for Silverlight

2:30 pm  – 3:30 pm - Media, Markers and More

3:30 pm – 3:45 pm - Break

3:45 pm  – 4:45 pm - Silverlight and AJAX

4:45 pm  – 5:00 pm - Giveaways

posted on Sunday, January 20, 2008 5:17:17 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Saturday, January 19, 2008

A few weeks ago I read an article in Wired magazine about how a Silicon Valley start-up named 23andme will decode your DNA. Since the Human Genome was mapped a few years ago, this is now possible. So I signed up. Here is how it works.

I went to the 23andme web site and signed up. It cost US $1,000. They sent me via FedEx a kit. Basically a little tube arrived. I spit into the tube and sent it back today. In about 4 weeks I will be able to log into the 23andme web site and see my results.

It will be very cool. First I will see if my parents are really my parents? (Well I have my Dad's nose and my mom's cheekbones, so I guess they are stuck with me.) Which parent gave me the SQL gene? (I am banking on my great-great-great Grandmother.)

Am I prone to have Cancer? (Two of my Grandparents died of Cancer.) Am I prone to Heart Disease? (My Grandfather died from a heart attack at a young age.) Do I have the royal disease?

Did I inherit my grandfather's sense of smell? Why do I climb mountains and run marathons? Why do I travel so much? Maybe I am related to an explorer like Magellan or something.

Am I related to anyone famous like George Washington or King Tut? (Are Warren and Jimmy Buffet related? They went to 23andme to find out.)   23andme has Ancestry tools! 23andme says: "Genetically, humans are overwhelmingly similar to one another. But over the millennia, slight genetic differences between people have emerged and been passed down. 23andMe's Global Similarity tool compares your genome to those of people around the world. The more similar you are to people in a particular region, the more likely your family tree sprang from that place. Once you locate some likely candidates, we bring them all alive with information about their history, favorite foods, music, languages, and even pets. "

My results are due back in about 4 weeks, of course I will share them here.

One again I am always amazed what people can do with technology.

posted on Saturday, January 19, 2008 11:06:44 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Thursday, January 17, 2008

Data portability took a huge step forward today. Yahoo! just joined the OpenID 2.0 framework.

OpenID is an open framework that eliminates the need for multiple usernames across different web sites and applications. Today there are 120 million members and a lot of sites that support it (including Plaxo and many others you may use today.) But the best part is that your OpenID ID will always stay with you-even if you close your account. So if you are a Plaxo user with OpenID and a Yahoo! user with OpenID, you can close your Yahoo! account and use the same OpenID with Plaxo. If Google joined OpenID, you can leave Yahoo! and join Google easily.

Speaking of which, there are rumors that Google, IBM and Verisign will join OpenID shortly. Yahoo has 250 million users and will build momentum to OpenID, enough momentum that Google, IBM and Verisign will find compelling to join. Maybe Microsoft will then make its Passport interoperable with OpenID?

Now OpenID is a very attractive platform. This is the beginning of a fundamental change in the Internet. Our profiles will now be potable. Soon we will have true data portability (meanign the date in my LinkedIn or Facebook account can travel with me when I leave). It will lead to a change in how the social networking sites operate. As I stated two weeks ago, Data portability will force the social networking sites to differentiate themselves based on features and functionality. It will make the web lots of fun, creating a platform for apps.

MySpace and Facebook can compete not on the data it holds but on its API and how many developers it attracts to create third party apps on their platform. I have always said that Web 2.0 is web sites as a platform (Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook’s APIs) much like MS DOS was a platform. Web 2.5 is the platform with open data portability standards and single sign-on. We have single sign-on in our sights. Next step is full data portability.

UPDATE (Jan 18, 2008)

Google has been testing OpenID since November in its Blogger product line. As of Friday, Blogger users are able to use their blogs URL as an OpenID login! (Blogger users just have to flip the switch on the admin menu.) This will add approximately 20 million more users to OpenID, on top of the 250 million yesterday. If successful, you can suspect that Google will add OpenID to more of its properties.

posted on Thursday, January 17, 2008 1:04:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3] Trackback
# Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008
An introduction to Spring.NET

Subject: 
You must register at https://www.clicktoattend.com/invitation.aspx?code=122047 in order to be admitted to the building and attend.
Spring.NET is an open source application framework that can help you more easily implement and design loosely coupled application architectures. Loosely coupled architectures bring to the table important advantages such as resiliency to changing requirements, ease in following agile practices such as test driven development, as well as lowering of maintenance costs. The central artifact in Spring.NET that delivers these benefits is the lightweight container – an object factory responsible for the creation, configuration, decoration and assembly of your application components. Building on this base, Spring.NET also provides solutions for other common infrastructure requirements to help increase productivity as well as promote loose coupling. These include support for Aspect Oriented Programming, ASP.NET development, ADO.NET data access, declarative transaction management, portable service abstractions, and integration testing.
The origins of Spring.NET come from the Java world where the Spring Framework has become the de facto standard for enterprise application development. The core concepts in the Spring Framework extend beyond the Java platform and are applicable to .NET. Inasmuch, Spring.NET combines the Spring Framework’s proven arc

Speaker: 
Mark Pollack, Interface21
Dr. Mark Pollack has worked extensively in the financial sector as an architect and developer on various front office trading systems that involved a mixture of Microsoft and Java technologies. Prior to joining Interface21, he was a founding partner at CodeStreet, LLC, an independent software vendor in the financial services industry. In 1991, Mark received a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Stony Brook University before continuing on to earn a Ph.D. in Experimental High-Energy Nuclear Physics from the same university in 1997.

Date: 
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Time: 
Reception 6:15 PM , Program 6:30 PM

Location:  
Microsoft , 1290 Avenue of the Americas (the AXA building - bet. 51st/52nd Sts.) , 6th floor

Directions:
B/D/F/V to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Ctr
1 to 50th St./Bway
N/R/W to 49th St./7th Ave.

posted on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 8:27:24 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, January 14, 2008

The dot com era was crazy. Companies that had no business plan, no revenue, no customers, but a great team, web site and investors would IPO for $100 million. Everyone had stock options and got rich on paper. Once all of these companies went bankrupt and were delisted in the crash of April 2000, everyone was poor again since their options were underwater and worthless. The common phrase is “I wallpapered my house with my useless stock options.”

I too wallpapered my apartment with Zagat Survey stock options. I was the Chief Technology Officer for two years during the .com era and saw it all. I got there as a consultant in 1998 when the company had just 30 employees and the server for the web site was under Sal’s desk. (Sal being the entire IT department at the time.) When I joined as CTO in late 1999, I helped with my colleagues secure $34 million in Venture funding from General Atlantic and Kleiner Perkins and build a great team.

The place became a true .com with 27 year old Harvard MBAs running around, employees bringing in their dogs to work, an air hockey table, and a web site that had one mission: drive traffic. The company swelled up to 200 people, but I build out an amazing web farm and an .NET application a year before .NET shipped. We filed for an IPO. Then the crash happened. I then had to preside over massive layoffs and the eventual loss of my own motivation and left in January 2002 to start Corzen.

Today it was announced that Zagat is up for sale and at a valuation of at least $200 million. When General Atlantic and KPCB invested in the height of the .com bubble, Zagat was valued at $96 million. That means that all the employees and former employees with vested stock options (including myself) now have .com options that are above water. Well above water. I am going to scrape down the wallpaper and deposit them into my brokerage account (I hope Fidelity Investments does not mind the glue.) I guess the .com era is not over if some companies are still paying out.

Why would Zagat sell? They do a nice little business of book sales (estimated 5.5 million books sold a year) and online paid subscriptions. The problem is that Zagat is so Web 1.0. While it is technically user generated content (the ratings are not by reviews, but surveys), Zagat is still stuck in the Web 1.0 mindset (no-one pays for content anymore! Wait that was Web 1.0 too!) and has to compete with Chowhound, Facebook applications, blogs, and scores of other user generated sites. Its business model is obsolete in a Web 2.0 world. It is adapt or die. Or adapt or sell to the highest bidder and let them figure out how to make Zagat 2.0.

posted on Monday, January 14, 2008 9:49:20 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Sunday, January 13, 2008

In Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its openness, blogger Fouad al-Farhan has said: “The television stations are completely owned by the government. The newspapers are highly censored, and some of their chief editors have been in their positions for more than 30 years.” Fouad has found a way around the establishment and censorship: a way to have his voice heard, and a way to have his ideas expressed directly to the Saudi Government and the world. He does this through his blog.

On December 10th 2007, he was jailed for “violating the rules of the kingdom” or basically expressing free speech. US President George Bush is due in Saudi Arabia this week on a tour of the Middle East. While he is there, President Bush is going to press the Saudi Arabia leaders to release Fouad.

The President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world, is going to come to the defense of a normal Saudi citizen who he has never met.  A blogger. On January 10th, Reporters without Borders sent an open letter to the Saudi Monarchy asking to have Fouad released. A reporter? No, a blogger.

Then on Friday, Wei Wenhua, a blogger in China, was reporting about a confrontation between local authorities and the villagers. He was filming the happenings for his blog and then was beaten to death by the police. CNN has reported that “thousands expressing outrage in Chinese Internet chat rooms, often the only outlet for public criticism of the government.”

These two incidents have shown us the power of technology. Authoritarian regimes have successfully suppressed free speech throughout the course of human history. For the first time in human history, the tide has turned; the authoritarian regimes can’t fight the blogs. For the first time in human history, the masses have the edge. Sure China can censor Google and run tons of pattern recognition software to disallow blogs and other Internet media, but as soon as they ban one, another will come up. It is similar to the RIAA and Record Companies suing Napster and College Students. Authoritarian regimes now have to cope with their citizens now having a voice. A voice heard by the entire world.

Get ready for Civil Disobedience 2.0.

posted on Sunday, January 13, 2008 2:42:11 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, January 04, 2008

Everyone sends me Facebook requests. I don’t reply since I am not a member of Facebook. I am not a member of Facebook because my sixdegrees, Friendster, MySpace, Plaxo, LinkedIn and countless other memberships have went nowhere. Just because Facebook has a few added bells and whistles, why should I join?

Let’s say that Richard Campbell wears me down (who sends me more requests to join Facebook then my 17 year old god-daughter) and I join Facebook. If I joined I would want to be cool and have 300 “friends” or whatever they call them over there on the first day. It would be cool if I can press a button and my LinkedIn contacts would be imported automatically, or from Plaxo, etc.

Well uber blogger Robert Scoble was trying to do something like that. He was running an alpha feature of Plaxo Plus that went up against Facebook to scrape your contacts. Facebook banned him. Scoble authorized Plaxo to log into Facebook and get his data. It is HIS DATA, yet he got banned for trying to access it via Plaxo. Facebook does not own the data, Robert Scoble does.

This is not the way to start the new year, closing your site to your own users who just want to export their data. Facebook’s api should allow this (it does not allow the export of an email address.) Scoble has since had his account reinstated, but not before comparing himself to Gandhi (please!).

I am sick and tired of not having profile and data portability on the internet. Google has supported the OpenID but that just gets you in the door, what about bringing my data with me or interoperability between different sites. If Richard Campbell is a member of Plaxo and LinkedIn and is my business “pulse“ on Plaxo, he should automatically be my “contact” on LinkedIn if we both agree in a semi-automated way.

So, Facebook should open up! Allow the masses to have data portability. Earlier today Chris Saad from the DataPortability Work Group issued an open invitation to Facebook to join with them in working towards data interoperability. (Note to Facebook: Yahoo, Myspace,  and several others are already onboard. )

Data portability will force the social networking sites to differentiate themselves based on features and functionality. It will make the web lots of fun, creating a platform for apps. Facebook can compete not on the data it holds but on its API and how many developers it attracts to create third party apps on the Facebook platform. I have always said that Web 2.0 is web sites as a platform (Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook’s APIs) much like MS DOS was a platform. Web 2.5 is the platform with open data portability standards and single sign-on.

Time to free up the data on the internet. It is yours to begin with.

Bring on Web 2.5!

 

posted on Friday, January 04, 2008 6:22:27 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback
# Wednesday, January 02, 2008

At the start of a new year we have an opportunity to be reflective and think about the experience of the past year and how we can spot trends and apply any lessons learned in the new year. At the start of 2008 I am equally reflective on the past year and what it has taught me. A lot has happened in the last year: I completed 75% of my MBA degree, I sold my company Corzen and find myself mired in a new startup, I traveled so much that the government had to give me a new passport, and I attended many weddings and unfortunately a few funerals of friends and loved ones.

While a lot has went on, I find myself looking at the impact of technology on my life and the world in general. In a year where blogs have helped shape the presidential debates and VOIP has made communication so much easier, the world has gotten smaller. Microsoft released new versions of Windows, Office and Visual Studio, and as usual I got to travel the world to explain it to developers. In the past year I got the pleasure to visit many countries and several parts of the United States.  As I visit these places, I develop close friendships. I seem to attend more weddings overseas then at home!

Because of technology, the world is smaller. You realize just how small the world is when major news becomes personal. For example minutes after Benazir Bhutto was killed, I received several text messages and emails from my friends and colleagues in Pakistan. A bomb goes off in Hyderabad, India, and Kim Tripp texts me that she is ok since she knows I know she is there.

Why I Love Technology

My career in technology is completely accidentals. I was studying for a PhD in History when I went to Wall Street after I graduated University to earn some money before I went to graduate school. I was in my managers office and he just wrote 20 reviews in a MS Word template and kept hitting “Save” not “Save As..” He asked me to retrieve the documents (but asked me not to read them since they were my and my colleagues annual reviews and bonus. I told him it was impossible since he overwrote them all. He told me to go report to the IT department the next day for a new (and better) job.  My knowledge of Save As in DOOM games got me my first technology job!

I love technology because technology is a great disruptive force. It levels the playing field. It creates new business models. It breaks up monopolies.  It makes the world smaller. Think of life 20 years ago in the United States. A political leader in another country is killed. What do you do? Turn on TV and get the “official” version of the story at 6pm or 11pm. In 2008 we get instant stories from local sources with videos of the event almost immediately on blogs from folks on the scene. We also have CNN and other networks. What if you want to call your loved ones overseas to see if they are ok? AT&T will charge you $3.55 a minute to connect to Pakistan. In 2008, there is no more AT&T as we knew them and it is free on Skype, or just $0.02 cents a minute on VOIP.

Take the music industry.  In the past you had to deal with the big, evil, monopoly RIAA. In 2008, artists are promoting their own music on MySpace and their own web sites and MP3 files are available for  $0.99 on iTunes or free if you are willing to break the law, but I still download free music to protest the RIAA. But now Radiohead broke the mold and bypassed the RIAA and record labels and posted their new album on the web and said that you can name your own price to download. How is that for a “strategic inflection point” for an industry?

The list goes on and on. Just try looking for a job today, who uses the newspaper anymore? Or the Yellow Pages? Technology creates a new opportunity for us all.

Do you believe that software can change the world?

I had the pleasure to work on a project in a small way that can greatly help society. Microsoft sponsored a project to be built by InterKnowlogy for The Scripps Research Institute. The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, is one of the largest private, nonprofit biomedical research organizations in the US and a world leader in the structure of biological molecules.  Scientists at Scripps Research wanted a better way to organize biological research information and share it with their colleagues.  InterKnowlogy developed an application built on .NET 3.0 with WPF, and Windows Vista giving scientists a powerful tool to visualize and annotate research results.  This application allowed for faster scientific collaboration, easier access to data and a dynamic development process.  (You can read the full case study on Microsoft.com.)

I came across this application about 18 months ago. It used technology to break down barriers in Cancer research. In the past if a doctor was looking at a sample, they would annotate it and then mail it to other doctors who would look at it and mail it to more doctors. This is called “peer review” and is very important, but it takes a ton of time. InterKnowlogy built an app that used SharePoint, Office 2007 and WPF to make this collaboration instant and permanent. The application is speeding up the peer review and collaboration to levels not imagined just a few years ago. It was so impactful that Tim, the owner of InterKnowlogy got to help Steve Ballmer in New York with the Vista launch. I was invited to hang with the big boys since Tim, via technology, is a good friend of mine.

I then suggested to someone at Microsoft that they should help pay for phase II of the application. They liked it so much that they “hired” me (for free!) to recruit a virtual team of four developers overseas to help Tim with Phase II. I put out a call for developers on my blog, nothing else. I got hundreds of responses. Ultimately I referred four developers, one each from: Egypt, Mexico, Poland, and India. Microsoft paid their salaries and Tim gave them tasks to do. They worked on it for six months and came up with an amazing application. We went on .NET Rocks this summer to talk about it.

Later this year I met the Polish developer in Bulgaria at a conference. Tim hired him and now he is working full time at InterKnowlogy. When he met me he told me point blank that I changed his life. I was moved by that and realized the power of technology. Not only did we work together to cure cancer by empowering doctors and researchers, we were helping people in other countries get new jobs that make a difference and more money, all from home.

How Technology Will Change the Future

This is the tip of the iceberg. This is what little old me could accomplish in 2007; I was able to put together a team of developers from three continents and really help cure cancer (the doctor from Scripps will probably get the Nobel Prize) without leaving my house. What can you do?

posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2008 6:44:35 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] Trackback